Throughout the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly conveys a warning to those who find themselves in power but wield that power incorrectly.
The message of those ‘in power’ vs. those ‘out of power’ is particularly focused in Luke’s gospel. More than Matthew, Mark, and John - Luke emphasizes that those in power must take responsibility to act on behalf of the poor and disaffected.
Into this motif comes the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).
The parable is a masterpiece of storytelling. Jesus uses a framework that would be familiar to his listeners in his first-century Israeli culture (see here or here – are the examples cited most by scholars).
The familiar folklore surrounds two common themes:
1. The theme of a “role reversal” or a reversal of fortunes – Rich v. Poor.
2. The living receiving a message from beyond the grave as a warning.
Jesus then adapts these common themes to his message and imbues it with references from the Old Testament and cultural thinking from first-century Judaism.
These combine to create a pointed warning for those in charge - “repent,” or you will lose your inheritance.
Join me for this two-part series as we explore this parable.
To help you with your studies, see the lesson plan below:
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All of us have read Jesus' parables. Some parables have been read over and over through the years.
How often, though, have we read a parable and then found ourselves thinking, "Now what did that just mean?"
Parables (and other storytelling techniques such as fables) are foundational to communication in the ancient Near Eastern culture. Both the Jewish Rabbis and their audiences were expecting teachings to be expressed in vivid stories that captured their imagination.
Telling a parable with a simple story helped the listeners carry the teaching about God with them as they went about their day. The story, woven together with Biblical references, points to "truth-principles" about God, his kingdom, or how we are to live our lives. The story allows the lesson to be told and re-told. Over time, the truth contained within emerges in powerful ways.
There are many good books on parables. I will provide a reference to three.
The first book - mentioned in the video - is by Kenneth E. Bailey. If you want to understand more about Jesus and the Eastern Culture as well as a number of his parables, this book is a must-read. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels
The second book is by Brad Young and explores many of Jesus' parables through a Rabbinic perspective: The Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation
The final book, which I mention in the video, is best if you're further down the road in your studies. The book is a compilation of Rabbinic Parables, but the authors do not spend time going through Jesus' parables.
They Also Taught in Parables: Rabbinic Parables from the First Centuries of the Christian Era by McArthur and Johnston.
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Scott Broberg - I have (2) credit hours remaining before I complete my Masters of Divinity (MDiv) from Bethel Seminary - San Diego. My focus is Biblical Studies with an emphasis on the Old Testament. My plan was to finish my studies by attending a course in Jerusalem in July 2020 - COVID-19 changed those plans.
- Our Rabbi Jesus
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